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Commission and EBU to pursue collaboration in EU Neighbourhood Region

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fuleThe European Commission and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) will work together to strengthen the independence of the media in the European Neighbourhood Region, following a meeting between Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle (pictured), EBU President Jean-Paul Phillipot and EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre.

The organizations have signed and exchanged letters to cement their cooperation in the European Neighbourhood region, building on existing collaboration in the context of EU Enlargement policy.

Philippot said: “Independent and sustainable public service media organizations are pillars of freedom of expression and a democratic media landscape. EBU Partnership Programme activities in the European Neighbourhood region will be all the more potent with the backing of the European Commission.”

Füle said: “Freedom of expression, free press and media are the pillars of deep and sustainable democracy, which is one of the core objectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy. I am very happy that the European Broadcasting Union shares our view that securing freedom of expression requires a continuous effort by all stakeholders.

“I welcome in particular engagement of the EBU in countries like Ukraine, or Tunisia which are undergoing important changes.  The role of media and its independence is crucial in assisting this process. I would like to confirm our commitment to co-operate with the EBU on the improvement of the media landscape in the European Neighbourhood region and to advance the co-operation which has already proved to be very successful in the Enlargement region.”

Under its Partnership Programme, the EBU undertakes various actions targeting public service broadcasters in the Enlargement and European Neighbourhood region. Actions notably include assistance, technical support and training to build internal capacity for independence and long-term sustainability.

Further background information on European Neighbourhood Policy is available in the European Commission's press release.

EU

Transport MEPs list main steps to make EU roads safer

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The goal of zero deaths on European roads by 2050 calls for more robust measures on road safety, such as, 30 km/h speed limit or zero-tolerance for drink-driving, Transport MEPs say, TRAN.

Speeding is a key factor in around 30% of fatal road crashes, Transport MEPs note. They call on the Commission to come up with a recommendation to apply safe speed limits, such as maximum speed of 30km/h in residential areas and areas where there are high numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. To further promote safe road use, they also urge to set a zero-tolerance drink-driving limit, highlighting that alcohol is involved in around 25% of all road fatalities.

The draft resolution also welcomes the recent revision of the General Safety Regulation, which will make new advanced safety features in vehicles such as intelligent speed assistance and emergency lane keeping systems mandatory in the EU as from 2022, with the potential to save around 7 300 lives and avoid 38 900 serious injuries by 2030. Moreover, MEPs ask the Commission to consider the incorporation of a “driving safe mode” for mobile and electronic devices of drivers in order to inhibit distractions while driving.

Tax incentives and attractive motor insurance schemes for the purchase and use of vehicles with the highest safety standards should be pursued, MEPs add.

European road transport agency

To properly implement the next steps in the EU road safety policy, new capacities are needed in the field of road safety, says the draft text. Therefore, Transport MEPs call on the Commission to establish a European road transport agency to support sustainable, safe and smart road transport.

EP Rapporteur Elena Kountoura (The Left, EL) said: “Strong political will by the national governments and the European Commission is essential to do what it takes to halve road fatalities by 2030 and move decisively towards Vision Zero by 2050. We must mobilise more investments towards safer road infrastructure, make sure that cars are equipped with the best life-saving technologies, establish speed limits of 30 km/h in cities across Europe, adopt zero tolerance on drink-driving and ensure strict enforcement of road traffic rules.”

Next steps

The resolution on EU Road Safety Policy Framework now needs to be voted by the full house of the Parliament, possibly during the September session.

Background

This report serves as Parliament’s formal response to the Commission’s new approach to EU road safety for the years 2021-2030, and its EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030.

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Aviation Strategy for Europe

Single European Sky: MEPs ready to start negotiations

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European airspace management should be fine-tuned to optimize flight routes, reduce flight delays and cut CO2 emissions, said the Transport and Tourism Committee, TRAN.

The negotiating mandate on the reform of the Single European Sky rules, adopted by the Transport and Tourism Committee on Thursday by 39 votes to seven and two abstentions, proposes ways to modernize the management of European airspace in order to reduce flight delays, optimise flight routes, cut costs and CO2 emissions in the aviation sector.

Streamline European airspace management

Transport Committee MEPs want to reduce fragmentation in European airspace management and optimise flight routes, i.e. have more direct flights. They support streamlining the European airspace management system by setting up independent national supervisory authorities (NSAs), responsible for issuing air navigation service providers and airport operators with economic licences to operate, as well as implementing airspace management performance plans, to be set by the new Performance Review Body, operating under the auspices of EU Safety Aviation Agency (EASA).

The rules on expanding EASA’s mandate was adopted by 38 votes to 7 and 3 abstentions. The committee also voted in favour to give a mandate for the start of inter-institutional talks by 41 vote to 5 and 2 abstentions.

Greener flights

MEPs on the Transport and Tourism Committee stress that the Single European Sky should follow the Green Deal and contribute to the goal of climate neutrality with up to a 10% reduction in climate-impacting emissions

The Commission shall adopt the EU performance targets on capacity, cost efficiency, climate change and environmental protection for air navigation services, MEPs say. They also suggest that charges levied on airspace users (airlines or private planes operators) for the provision of air navigation services should encourage them to be more environmentally friendly, for example, by promoting alternative clean propulsion technologies.

Open up the market

As MEPs want more competition between air-traffic controllers, they suggest that one or a group of member states should choose air-traffic service providers through a competitive tender, unless it would result in cost inefficiency, operational, climate or environmental loss, or inferior working conditions. The same logic would apply when choosing other air navigation services, such as communication, meteorological or aeronautical information services.

Rapporteurs’ quotes

EP rapporteur Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, RO) said: “Europe’s current airspace architecture is built according to national borders. This aviation nationalism means longer flights, more delays, extra costs for passengers, higher emissions, and more pollution. With a truly Single European Sky and a unified European air management system, we would create a new airspace architecture based not on borders but on efficiency. Unfortunately, the position adopted recently by the Council is based on national concerns. Therefore we urge Member States to fly high, so we can finally address the problems of cost, fragmentation and emissions plaguing European aviation”.

The rapporteur on EASA rules, Bogusław Liberadzki (S&D, PL), added: “We strongly believe that the Single European Sky should be quickly implemented to bring more common European standards and procedures between member states. After the COVID-19 crisis, we are ready to boost economic and environmental efficiency in European aviation.”

Next steps

This vote on the Single European Sky rules constitutes the update of Parliament’s negotiating position adopted back in 2014 and therefore reconfirms MEPs’ readiness to start inter-institutional talks with EU Council shortly. The negotiations on the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules are expected to start in parallel, after the result of the committee vote is announced in plenary, possibly during the June II or July session.

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Economy

NextGenerationEU €20 billion bond issuance seven times oversubscribed

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The European Commission reached a key milestone in the implementation of its recovery plan, by issuing €20 billion of debt to fund NextGenerationEU. The bonds were seven times oversubscribed despite the very modest level of interest at 0.1%. All in all, the EU will raise €800bn on the capital markets to fund what is hoped will be a transformative programme of investment across the continent. 

Commission President von der Leyen said: “This is the largest ever institutional bond issuance in Europe and I'm very pleased that it has  attracted very strong interest by a wide range of investors.”

Some have described Europe’s decision to issue bonds in this was as a ‘Hamiltonian moment’, Commissioner Hahns said: “I want to be a little bit more modest, concrete and self-confident by rather saying: this is a truly European moment, as it demonstrates the EU's innovation and transformative power.”

How green does your garden grow?

Commissioner Hahn said that the EU would be issuing green bonds in the autumn. The EU will launch them once it has settled on its EU Green Bond Standard, this will double the current volume of green bonds in the market. Hahn compared it to the way the SURE bonds have tripled the social bond market. Green bonds will account for around 30% of the EU’s overall borrowing amounting to around €270bn in current prices.  

Persona non grata

Asked about the decision of the European Commission to exclude certain banks from this round of issuance, Hahns said that though many of the banks had met the criteria to participate in the primary dealer network, there were outstanding legal issues that needed to be resolved. He said: “Banks have to demonstrate and to prove that they have taken all the necessary remedial action that has been demanded by the Commission,” but added: “We have a way interest to include all the key players and banks, which have qualified themselves for the primary dealer network but of course, the sort of the the legal aspects have to be respected.”

In May 2021, the European Commission found that several banks had breached EU antitrust rules through the participation of a group of traders in a cartel in the primary and secondary market for European Government Bonds (‘EGB'). Some of the banks involved were not fined because their infringement fell outside the limitation period for the imposition of fines. The fines on the others totalled €371 million.

Fund managers lead the table

The demand was dominated by fund managers (37%), and bank treasuries (25%) followed by central banks / official institutions (23%). In terms of region, 87% of the deal was distributed to European investors, including the UK (24%), 10% to Asian investors and 3% Investors from the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.

Background

NextGenerationEU will raise up to around €800bn between now and  the end of 2026. This translates as borrowing of roughly €150bn per year, which will be repaid by 2058.

With the SURE programme the Commission issued bonds and transferred the proceeds directly to the beneficiary country on the same terms that it received (in terms of interest rate and maturity). This worked for small funding needs, but the size and complexity of the NextGenerationEU programme requires a diversified funding strategy. 

Multiple funding instruments (EU bonds with different maturities, some of which will be issued as NextGenerationEU green bonds, and EU-Bills - securities with a shorter maturity) and techniques (synidcation - usually preferred by supranational issuers, and auctions - usually preferred by nation states) wil be used to maintain flexibility in terms of market access and to manage liquidity needs and the maturity profile. 

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